You may have heard this phrase on a college campus before, but this time, we are not speaking of illegal substances or risky behavior. Boise State nursing students clad in blue scrubs, and a smile, have been on campus giving vaccines to eradicate meningococcal meningitis. For a limited time, free meningitis vaccines have been offered, thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Idaho Immunization Program at the Department of Health and Welfare, and the Idaho Immunization Coalition (IIC). Boise State Nursing students and instructors are working to distribute the free vaccines this fall around campus. In this case “everybody is doing it” is a good thing.
Emily Stillman, age 19, was attending school at Kalamazoo, a private liberal arts college in Michigan. Stillman was a sophomore double majoring in psychology and drama. Her dream was to perform on Saturday Night Live. She did not get to fulfill her dream. On the evening of January 31, 2013 Stillman complained of a headache which progressively got worse. At 2:00 am she was rushed to the hospital because the pain had become so severe. Her family was notified of their daughter’s hospitalization and advised to come immediately. By the time her family arrived Stillman was in a coma and never regained consciousness. She died on February 2, just two days after coming down with symptoms.
According to Strunk & Rocchiccioli (2010) approximately 1400 to 3000 people contract this disease each year in the United States., of these ten to fourteen (10-14%) percent will die. This disease is caused by microscopic bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcal. The symptoms vary but most often involve sudden onset headache, fever, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. The disease resembles the common influenza (flu) virus. Those who are fortunate enough to survive may suffer from hearing loss, neurological deficits, limb amputations and sepsis.
College students are at an increased risk because of many factors. First, the meningococcal bacteria are spread through respiratory secretions and saliva. Coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing of drinks are perfect opportunities for the disease to spread. Secondly, the bacteria are spread more readily among people in close contact with one another; college students living in dorms are very vulnerable to getting this disease. Another risk factor is smoking.
The meningococcal vaccine is the best way to prevent this deadly disease. Boise State Nursing students, faculty and staff are administering this vaccine. There are five strains of the meningococcal virus in the United States and this vaccine, Menveo™, protects against four of the five strains. The vaccine is recommended to be administered at the age of 11 or 12 but unfortunately it is not required for students entering universities in Idaho.
Boise State University nursing students and faculty are working in conjunction with the Idaho Immunization Coalition to lay the foundation for statewide immunization awareness and illness prevention campaign. This effort called the Idaho Meningitis College Campus Campaign has been led and carried out by nursing leadership students, faculty, and campus health clinic staff throughout the state of Idaho. ISU, University of Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University, Lewis-Clark State College, and BYU of Idaho are participating in this campaign as well. Dr. Pamela Strohfus with the IIC received 8,000 meningitis vaccines donated by the CDC. Those participating in this campaign would like to see the maximum amount of student benefit from this generous donation.
Watch for vaccination clinics on campus into 2014. Vaccines will be available at the Boise State Health Fair on November 20th in the Student Union Building in the Jordan Ball Room. Students have the opportunity receive a free vaccine and help prevent meningococcal meningitis at Boise State and the other universities and colleges mentioned above.
If the thought of death or loss of limbs is not enough to motivate a response. Get your vaccine because “everybody’s doing it.”